WASHINGTON —Ruqiyyah Anbar-Shaheen, director of early childhood at DC Action and Under 3 DC Coalition Director, is issuing the following statement today during the DC Council Committee of the Whole Hearing.
“Today, you are witnessing compelling personal stories from early learning professionals and broad community support from all wards of the District during the DC Council Committee of the Whole Hearing. All of them are saying the same thing: Compensate early educators–who often receive unlivable wages in the current system–as we do the educators of older children.
“Most of the DC Council have voiced their support for early education and the essential role it plays for our children and economy. Now is the time for them to translate that support into a meaningful, transformative financial investment of $60 million in ongoing, local funding for our next fiscal year.
“Investing in our early learning workforce would allow the District to increase the quality, supply, and affordability of child care and make it possible for the Black and brown women doing the vital work of educating young children to support their own families. As written, the proposed fiscal year 2022 budget takes steps to provide relief to the child care sector, which has been battered by the pandemic and struggled long before that. But these one-time investments do little to rebuild it and meet the needs of young children, their families, and their educators.
“ As I shared in the DC Line today (in an opinion co-written with Tazra Mitchell of DCFPI), ‘…Teachers have fled the sector searching for higher-paying jobs. Small centers and family-care homes can’t afford to offer the salaries necessary to be attractive in a now-competitive labor market.’ As you heard in today’s testimony, it is an insult to educators that some think a pilot pay program that touches only about ten percent of the workforce and launches in 2023 is acceptable.
“The very generous federal relief funds Chairman Mendelson referenced today on The Politics Hour provide only short-term relief for the child care sector and other essential public good programs. The money disappears in two years. The District’s long-term economic wellbeing cannot rely on a one-time investment. Early educators and families with young children deserve long-term, sustainable financial support from the community they serve.”
Under 3 DC harnesses the voices and power of the District’s parents with young children, early educators, and community-based organizations to shine a spotlight on the need for more public investments in early education and health programs for infants and toddlers. Together, we can set the District of Columbia on a path to creating and sustaining a high-quality, equitable early childhood system.